Sherrie Levine - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Sunday, June 28, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Whitney Biennial, 6 March-1 June 2008 (another example exhibited)
    Alcoitão-Cascais, Portugal, Ellipse Foundation Contemporary Art Collection, Listen Darling…The World is Yours, October 2008-August 2009 (another example exhibited)
    London, Whitechapel Gallery, Keeping it Real: An Exhibition in Four Acts from the D. Daskalopoulos Collection (The Corporeal, Subversive Abstraction, Current Disturbance and Material Intelligence), June 2010-May 2011 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Whitney Biennial, exh. cat., the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2008 p.169 (another example referenced), p. 169 (another example illustrated)
    Sherrie Levine: MAYHEM, exh. cat., the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 2011-January 2012, p. 33

  • Catalogue Essay

    Sherrie Levine emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s as one of the ‘Pictures Generation,’ pioneering an appropriative practice alongside contemporaries like Richard Prince and Barbara Kruger. Among her most celebrated early work is After Walker Evans (1981), a series in which she re-lensed the documentary photographer’s iconic chronicle of America’s Great Depression. Where, she asked, is creativity situated, and how does authorship relate to meaning?

    Yet Levine’s scope is by no means limited to the photographic. The present lot manifests a sculptor’s sensibility, and belongs to an extensive body of work in bronze. In 1991, she cast in a urinal in this heroic alloy, appropriating Marcel Duchamp’s already-appropriated sculpture. Discussing the influence of the French avant-gardist, she reflects on his ubiquity; ‘Duchamp's great contribution was his profound sense of irony, and it's hard to conceive of a readymade he doesn't inhabit to a degree.’ (Sherrie Levine in Kristie McKenna, ‘Sherrie Levine and the Art of the Remake,’ LA Times, 17 November 1996).

    Although less entangled in layers of reference, Caribou Skull is no less arresting or complex than Levine’s earlier work. A lustrous cast, it is a work of transformative majesty: a macabre form is made luxuriant. Levine appropriates the biological and takes possession of the skeletal, elevating it to a polished work of art. In her hands, the skull is distanced from its place in the natural world. The horns become improbable; they appear not so much as evolutionary forms, but rather as a fiercely wrought apparition of bravura craftsmanship. As elegant memento mori, the work of course brings to mind that most divisive icon of contemporary art - Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull, For the Love of God (2007).

    However, perhaps paradoxically for a cast of an organic form, the piece is distinctively the work of Sherrie Levine. The bronze-cast animal skull crops up repeatedly in her oeuvre; from the steer to the bobcat, she has worked with a small menagerie of North American species. Resurfacing here is an interest in national identities, in the lives that make up a country, and in the forms they take. These first found expression in her photography, although here she brought her mediated gaze to bear on human rather than animal life.

    In any case, notions of reverberation are at the heart of the artist’s practice, tightly bound up with a broader philosophy. As she relates, ‘I tend to go back to things, though, and believe we all have a compulsion to repeat, and that repetition is essentially what our lives are.’ (Sherrie Levine in Kristie McKenna, ‘Sherrie Levine and the Art of the Remake,’ LA Times, 17 November 1996). Layers of recurrence suffuse the present lot. Returning to a practice of cast-making, she returns also to the body of an animal, offering it a canonised afterlife.

    The questions which Caribou Skull raises are those of identity and authority. Transfiguration and alchemy roam the plains of North America, scavenging material from which they raise a sacrificial trophy. The antlers recall the gleaming interior of some antic hunting lodge – a perversely polished icon of the American wilderness, and a heraldic testament to those rugged hinterlands. As she problematises ideas of creation and ownership, Sherrie Levine exalts the familiar to resonant magnificence with a brazen Midas touch.


Caribou Skull

cast bronze
149.9 x 91.1 x 73.7 cm (59 x 35 7/8 x 29 in.)
This work is number 6 from an edition of 12 plus 3 artist's proofs.

£300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for £494,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 29 June 2015 7pm